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June 06, 2011

Nigeria’s Former Speaker to be Prosecuted, Says Anti-Graft Official

by Peter Clottey

An official of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says the outgoing speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives will soon be prosecuted, charged with graft and misappropriation of funds.

Dimeji Bankole, former speaker of the House of Representatives, was recently arrested after a four-hour standoff at his home in the capital, Abuja.

Femi Babafemi, spokesman for the EFCC, said the arrest was not part of a political witch hunt, arguing that Bankole is a high ranking member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

The former speaker is facing a number of charges, including misappropriating a 25 billion Naira ($161.25 million) budgetary allocation and securing a 10 billion Naira ($64.5 million) loan from the United Bank of Africa, PLC, that was shared with senior figures in parliament.

Babafemi said members of the House of Representatives provided evidence to the graft commission and demanded an investigation.

But supporters of the former speaker dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.

A spokesman for Bankole has denied the lawmaker benefited from his position as speaker.

Supporters say Bankole is being targeted after losing his seat during the recent parliamentary election, a charge Babafemi rejects.

Babafemi says officials decided to arrest him after an intelligence report showed he planned to flee the country.

He also said the EFCC has been the most effective law enforcement agency in Nigeria.

Analysts say Bankole’s arrest is the anti-graft body’s biggest case.

“The commission has taken to court over 1,500 cases, including 65 high-profile cases of former ministers, of chief executives of government agencies, bank executives as well as former governors,” said Babafemi.

The EFCC has been able to recover over $11 billion, stolen from the Nigerian government, according to Babafemi.